Since making his illustrious debut in 2007, Chamberlain has run into some roadblocks. Back then, he was the talk of the town in New York, despite pitching in just 19 games at the end of the season. The Red Sox had recently pulled Jonathan Papelbon out of the arsenal; the Yankees countered with their own 21-year-old prodigy.
In 2007, Chamberlain boasted a 0.38 ERA in his first taste of big league action, allowing just one earned run in 24 innings while whiffing 34 and walking just six. He had success in his first full season in 2008, boasting a 2.63 ERA in 89.0 innings with a .231 opponents' batting average before bowing out for most of the month of August with a shoulder injury. In September, he came back stronger than ever, allowing three runs and whiffing 14 in 11 1/3 frames to end the season.
Since then, though, it's been an uphill battle.
He's weathered the talk of moving to the starting rotation and the subsequent experimenting, the ultimate decision to move him back to the bullpen, and most of all, the expectations levied as a result of his stellar debut. Whether it's because of lingering injury issues, fatigue or inability to handle the pressure, we'll never know, but Chamberlain's ERA has steadily climbed since that first season.
The 2009 starting experiment didn't pan out the way the organization thought it would; Chamberlain didn't fail, by any means, but he had a 9-6 record with a 4.75 ERA in 31 starts before the Yankees decided to transition him into a setup roll in 2010.
It hasn't gone smoothly there, either, but that's where Girardi comes in.
Chamberlain has had his fair share of rough outings this year, most recently at the Mariners on Saturday. He blew a save in a 1-0 game, allowing four earned runs in the eighth inning and taking the loss.
It's not the first time the 24-year-old has had trouble in the setup role — most notably, it was his eighth-inning implosion against Boston on May 18 that led to what many believe was the Red Sox' turning point this year — and during the first half of 2010, he's had five outings in which he's allowed three or more runs.
Still, Girardi won't give up on the young reliever. He can't. Girardi, more than anyone, is instrumental in making sure Chamberlain's confidence stays alive.
"Most of the times when we've had the leads he has done a good job," Girardi told The Associated Press after Saturday's loss. "[Against the Mariners], he struggled — it was with his command and we'll just keep working at it."
Knowing he has the confidence of his manager — particularly with Triple-A Scranton closer Jonathan Albaladejo breathing down his neck — is imperative to Chamberlain's success with the Yankees.
And Girardi's support hasn't been lost on him. In fact, it's exactly what has allowed him to stay focused amidst the struggles this year.
"People are going to look at the five bad [outings], but I'm going to look at the 25 good ones," Chamberlain told the New York Daily News. "It just comes down to execution. There's no other way around it."